Nick Cannon impressed fans with his vocal chops in Miracles Across 125th Street, but now he’s ready to take his singing talents to the next level. The multi-hyphenate has begun rolling out singles for Raw & B: The Explicit Tape, his upcoming R&B mixtape. The project will see Cannon collaborating with veterans like Brandy, Chris Brown, K. Michelle and more — and lyrically digging deeper than ever before.
“Any question that you ever had about my personal life, it’s answered in this project,” he tells REVOLT.
The past few months have been filled with highs for the 41-year-old — like readying his project and announcing he’s expecting his eighth child — as well as devastating lows, including tragically losing his 5-month-old son Zen to brain cancer.
“… Sometimes it gets real heavy and it’s a lot for me, and sometimes it’s a good day and I can handle it all,” he says. “At the end of the day, it’s all about being balanced and being centered and keeping people around you that are just as centered.”
Let’s talk about this new mixtape! It’s been a while since you put out a project. What got you back in the booth?
Honestly, it’s just been so therapeutic. I mean, obviously you see all the stuff that’s been going on in my life — it’s on the cover of tabloids and blogs and stuff like that every five minutes. Every time I put out a project, I feel like it’s really therapeutic. Like, I really need to just say something and get it out, and this [project] is as raw as it gets in the moment. So, I feel like the timing was right. But also, I feel like even with the landscape of music, a lot of people miss that — for lack of a better term — that baby-making music. So, I was like, you know what? I’m pretty good at that (laughs). Let’s put that out.
The project is called Raw & B and you’ve got a lot of great R&B artists on it. What do you think about the state of R&B right now?
I think the ladies got it! The ladies got it on smash. H.E.R., Summer Walker, Kehlani — and two of those individuals I had a lot to do with the beginning of their careers. I’m so proud of all the women, but specifically H.E.R. and Kehlani for their trajectory — for where they’re taking their strong voices. But, I’m just a fan. I’m a fan of Ari Lennox, I’m a fan of Summer, of Jazmine Sullivan, and really how outspoken and liberating they are with their music. I feel like, in my opinion, the fellas are not as prominent in that space. They make great music, but as far as that R&B that’s a sex symbol, that’s being raw with it, being outspoken; we haven’t had one of those voices from a male perspective in a while. That rawness is in hip hop, and the guys are a lot more melodic with it now, whether it’s Drake or Chris — they’ve kind of paved a way to mix the two [genres]. But I think that in R&B, we’re missing that a little bit from male artists.
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Brandy is on the project, and I know you’re a huge fan of hers. How did that collaboration come about?
That’s my best friend, and I’ve been able to have her in the wheelhouse of someone who puts me in my place — in many ways. For one, in the studio, ‘cause I just listen to whatever she had to say in the studio. But, also in friendship — we all have that friend who, whatever you have going on in your life, you can call them and they’ll just give you the real. She’s always been that for me. So, to be able to have that on the project … I don’t know if we’ve ever had one of those records with a conversation like that, like, ‘Yo, you gotta do better. You gotta get your life together.’ I don’t know if I’ve ever really heard that on a record before, so the fact that we got to do that on a record together — the song is called “Faithful” — is really cool.
You mentioned everything that’s going on in your life right now — how did that affect you in the booth?
It made me go deep. I often talk about my revelations in therapy and the work that I’m doing on myself. I get a chance to release all of that in my music. As an artist, it’s great to have that outlet. So, as much as this project feels like it’s exuding this sexy vibe, I also get real heartfelt and speak to some of my truths and some of my toxicity and all of that stuff.
What’s something you’ve learned from fatherhood?
Every single day I get a new lesson, but you realize that kids are a reflection of who you are. They hold that mirror up daily and challenge you to be the best you can possibly be, whatever the scenario is. I would say they’ve shown me my strength through the process, the resiliency it takes and the vulnerability. A lot of people don’t understand, when you’re vulnerable, that takes the most courage. That takes the most strength. With your children, you emote, you learn. You have to just give it all to God because there’s no other barometer of love and strength that comes at you like that other than parenting.
You’ve been working on a lot recently. Any update on the Dr. Sebi documentary?
I’m working on that every week! We’ve been in post-production for a while now. It’s something that I funded out of my pocket and because we went through the pandemic, and we were trying to be in Africa and Honduras, and a lot of the people we were supposed to be talking to were international, we had to slow it up. I want this to be the best film we can actually have, so we had a few speed bumps, but now we’re back in the saddle and hopefully the world will see it sooner than later.
Is your goal still to premiere the documentary at Sundance or the Toronto International Film Festival?
That’s still the goal. We’re definitely gonna drop it in the festivals first. Clearly, we missed Sundance, but we’ve still got TIFF around the corner, so we’ll see.
In learning about Dr. Sebi and carrying out Nipsey’s vision, what’s been your favorite part about creating the film so far?
It’s been a learning and growing journey from the first day. To have figures like Nip and Dr. Sebi, who mean so much to the world and have had such an impact … for me to be able to have that baton in the marathon to pass on to the next person — that’s what it’s all about.
You’ve talked a little bit about your holistic approach to your own health, including practicing celibacy to regain a sense of control. What did you get out of that experience?
My therapist says you gotta take it five minutes at a time. That’s one thing you learn in therapy: it’s never about the finish line. It’s more about the journey and to know that you’re gonna be dealing with these things throughout the rest of your life. So, all the things that I’m working on, I take it five minutes at a time, and sometimes you have to go to the extremes, like celibacy, to kind of get things in order. But, I still know it’s all about having a process and learning about the access to excess and learning the moderation of life and the balance of life. So again, sometimes it gets real heavy and it’s a lot for me, and sometimes it’s a good day and I can handle it all. At the end of the day, it’s all about being balanced and being centered — and keeping people around you that are just as centered.
I have to ask — Kevin Hart’s Valentine’s Day prank. What was your initial reaction?
Talking about keeping the right people around me — he’s the opposite [laughs]! Nah, that’s my brother. We’ve been doing these prank wars; I think I might have started it. I’ve sent llamas to his house, I’ve filled his mansion with thousands of balloons. I wrapped his jet with a picture of my face. So, whenever he sends me something, I’m like, alright, I guess I deserve this.
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Did you know it was from him?
I thought it was hilarious, but I didn’t know who sent it at first. Like, was this one of my baby mamas (laughs)? But, when he finally owned up to it, I was like, OK, this is good.
What are you going to come back with?
Getting back to your project, what do you think is going to surprise people?
I think more than anything, people probably aren’t used to me singing. I mean, I had the opportunity to do a Christmas film that was gospel-influenced (Miracles Across 125th Street) with Fred Hammond and Karen Clark Sheard and Kierra Sheard-Kelly, and my abilities kind of shocked people. So, that made me lean more to the singing. This is really just trying to stick the flag in the ground for R&B right now, and I think people will be pleasantly surprised, especially with the topics and the things that we’re covering. I’m vulnerable, I’m raw and I think people are gonna be pleasantly surprised.
How did you get your confidence up with singing. Did you have any mentors?
I mean, definitely Mariah. Mariah taught me a lot. I would say between Mariah, Brandy and Chris, they taught me. I would sit back and be in awe of the perfectionism. With Mariah, the fact that every vocal was pitch-perfect, the songwriting ability … I got a front-row seat to that for years. And then, like I said, having Brandy as my best friend and Chris is my brother, I’ve just watched and kind of sat back in the cut. I was always really intimidated about being in that world because I was so close to so many people, but I’ve had mentors — people like Stevie Wonder. So, to be in the studio with those types of people has been a great lesson throughout my career. So, now I’m gonna lean into this R&B/soul thing and see where it takes me.
Have you always wanted to transition into R&B?
Yeah, interestingly enough, I always had to hide the fact that I could sing and play musical instruments because I came in as a rapper. At the time, it wasn’t cool to sing your own hook, or it was soft to be in the space of R&B. So, I would downplay it, but obviously where we are right now, people are free with their art and showcase all of their talents. I grew up in the church. I’ve always had the ability to play multiple instruments. It’s been in me since birth. But now that I can actually flex it a little bit more, I think it’s kind of what I was meant to do.
What’s your hope for the project?
My goal is really to drop one of the hottest R&B projects of the year, especially for the males. Obviously, the ladies are killing it, but if I could just jump out there on that same wavelength, that same vibration that the ladies have been on, but speak up for the guys this time around.